Kyle Hightower

Western’s men’s basketball team had three individuals receive all-Sun Belt Conference recognition with the release of the league’s annual award winners yesterday.

Sophomore point guard Patrick Sparks was selected first-team all-conference, senior forward David Boyden was voted second-team all-conference and junior guard Mike Wells earned third-team all-conference honors in addition to being named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. Guard Anthony Winchester was chosen Freshman of the Year.

A two-time Player of the Week this season, Sparks leads the Hilltoppers and stands among league leaders in scoring (13.3 ppg), assists (168), three-point field goals (72) and steals (60). He ranks fourth on the Western season record list in assists, is sixth in both 3-point field goals and steals and is attempting to become the first person to lead the team in scoring and helpers since 1988-89. He needs only one more 3-point field goal to rank among the top five all-time leaders on the Hill.

Boyden ranks among the leaders in the league in scoring (12.7 ppg), rebounding (5.3 rpg) and field-goal percentage (48.1 percent), while adding career highs with 43 assists and 21 steals. The senior leads the Hilltoppers with three double-doubles and has topped the squad in scoring on a team-best nine occasions, scoring 20 or more points four times in the last month. He needs eight points to move into the top 25 all-time at Western. Boyden, who has started all but two of his 121 career appearances, was also an all-league selection in 2002.

Wells is the first guard ever to win the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year honor since the inception of the award in 1997, while it’s the third time in four years that a Topper has claimed the accolade. He leads all guards in the nation and ranks third in the Sun Belt with 43 blocks, adding a career-best 31 steals.

Wells has also recorded personal bests with 312 points, 46 3-point field goals, 124 rebounds and 52 assists. Wells’ 51.4 shooting percentage is the best among players at his position in the league, and he also ranks fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (41.4 percent). He was the first SBC Player of the Week this season.

Winchester is the second Western individual to claim Freshman of the Year honors. He ranks first or second in the league among all freshmen in scoring (6.1 ppg), rebounding (3.5 rpg) and assists (41) and is shooting 49.6 percent from the field, 44.1 percent from the three-point range and 79.2 percent at the free-throw line. Winchester, who needs six points to move into the top 10 on the Hilltopper season scoring list for freshmen, has led the team in scoring and rebounding three times.

–Kyle Hightower